martes, 6 de septiembre de 2011

Between The Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger won the Booker Prize and was notable for its intriguing form. I thought it would be a hard act to follow. It would need a great writer to be able to make a repeat match of both originality and style with engaging content. So on beginning Between The Assassinations I was prepared to be disappointed. I need not have worried because Aravind Adiga’s 2010 novel is perhaps a greater success than the earlier prize winner.

The novel does not have a linear plot, nor does it feature any resolution to satisfy the kind of reader that needs a story. But it does have its stories, several of them. Between The Assassinations is in fact a set of short stories, albeit related, rather than a novel. But the beauty of the form is that the book sets these different and indeed divergent tales in a single place, a fictitious town called Kittur.

It’s on India’s west coast, south of Goa and north of Cochin. Kittur presents the expected mix of religion, caste and class that uniquely yet never definitively illustrate Indian society. And by means of stories that highlight cultural, linguistic and social similarities and differences, Aravind Adiga paints a compelling and utterly vivid picture of life in the town. The observation that this amalgam both influences and in some ways determines these experiences is what makes Between The Assassinations a novel rather than a set of stories. It is the place and its culture that is the main character.

The title gives the setting in time. The book’s material thus spans the years between the assassinations of the two Ghandis, Indira and Rajiv. So it is the 1980s, and politics, business, marriage, love, loyalty, development, change and corruption all figure. Aravind Adiga’s juxtaposition of themes to be found in Kittur town and society thus leads us through times of questioning, rapid change and wealth creation. The book’s major success is that this conducted tour of recent history never once leads the reader where the reader does not willingly want to go. The stories are vivid, the personal relationships intriguing, the settings both informative and challenging.

Between The Assassinations is a remarkable achievement. The author has succeeded in writing a thoroughly serious novel with strong intellectual threads via a set of related stories that can each be enjoyed at face value, just as stories, if that is what the reader wants. Writing rarely gets as sophisticated as this or indeed as enjoyable, since humour, often rather barbed, is always close to the surface. Between The Assassinations is a wonderful achievement.

No hay comentarios: